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Four Causes

  • The Material Cause - the matter or substance from which something is made. This answers the question "what does it consist of?"
  • The Formal Cause - what gives the matter its "form" or "structure." This answers "what are it's characteristics?"
  • The Efficient Cause - the cause of an object or thing existing. This answers the question "how did it come about or happen?"
  • The Final Cause - the reason why something is the way it is. "Why is it here?" or "what is its purpose?"
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Plato and Aristotle

Aristotle's philosophy is different from Plato's, he emphasises the value of studying the physical world - empirical study, so he was more of a scientist.

He rejects Plato's theory of the Forms, which are outside of the world and only known through the mind/soul.

He rejects dualism (the belief in the seperation of the mind/soul and body, that the soul is what lives on) and Plato's understanding of the soul

Rather, Aristotle took the stance of a Materialist. This is someone who believes in Materialism - the rejection of the separation of soul and body, believing in only the body and this current life not a hereafter

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The Prime Mover

The Prime Mover is the unchanging cause of all that exists:

  • This is something that causes the motion and change of the universe without being moved and it is eternal
  • Something which is eternal must be necessarily be good. Anything that is limited or changing is bad - because there is always room for improvement.
  • The PM is the Final Cause of everything, meaning it is the one who made the first cause that has caused everything until today.
  • The PM is linked with some of the roles we would understand God to have - but is not the God of traditional theism
  • It is related to the universe - as a leader and the order of the universe
  • PM doesn't have a physical body as this would mean it is material and would change.
  • Therefore, Aristotle argues that the PM has a "spiritual body" that is immaterial. The most accurate explanation is to say that the PM is a form of intelligence whose only role is to think about its own self
  • As the PM is immaterial, it can only be intellectual and spiritual activities.
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Potentiality and Actuality

Everything exists is in a permanent state of "movement" or "motion." By "motion" Aristotle means "change"

Aristotle found out these 4 things:

  • The physicial world is constantly in "motion" and "change."
  • The planet seems to be moving eternally
  • Change or motion is always caused by something
  • Objects in the world are in a state of potentiality or actuality
  • Therefore --> there exists something that causes the change without being moved and is eternal

If something can change then it exists in one "actual" state and has the "potential" to become another state e.g. a cow is "potentially" a pice of roast beef. So everything that has a capability to change has the potential to be something else.

Therefore, to start these processes of motion all off, there must be a being (PM) that doesn't have the "potential" to change but is fully "actuality." This is because if it had potentiality as well then this would mean it would be able to change, no longer being the PM

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Problems and Evaluation

  • The relationship between the PM and universe is unclear
  • Aristotle's PM is transcendent and cannot interact in the universe in the way that believers often talk about God's activity in the world
  • The idea that the PM causes the universe and events in it through "thinking" is vague and unclear
  • Aristotle's God is perfect, so it can only think of itsefl. The PM can only know itself and can't know or have part in our lives
  • This PM seems to be unloving as it plays no part in our lives, would the cause of the universe be like that?
  • Is there really a final cause or purpose to the universe? Does there have to be a cause of the universe, can't it just be there? (Bertrand Russell)
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Aristotle and Christianity

His ideas had a lot of influence to the development of Christian philosophy and the arguments for the existence of God

  • There are a lot of simularities between the PM and God, indeed some have even said this is God
  • The Prime Mover theory influenced medieval thinking about God
  • The philosophy of Aristotle is used to explain Roman Catholic beliefs about the presence of Jesus in the bread and wine used in the Eucharist in Mass
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